Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case

Special Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case
Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Bukhari. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case

Saudi Arabia issues calming statement as Lebanese tensions rise over port explosion case
  • Politicians denounce intelligence office’s decision to summon Geagea in connection with October violence
  • Lebanon’s grand mufti thanks Saudi Arabia for message of solidarity as factions continue to bicker and issue threats

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Bukhari told Lebanese religious figures on Tuesday that the Kingdom “cares for Lebanon’s security, stability, institutions and co-existence between Christians and Muslims.”

The Saudi embassy’s media office said: “There is no legitimacy for the discourse of strife, nor for one that goes against Lebanon’s Arab identity.”

This was the first Saudi statement since the bloody clashes in Tayouneh on Oct. 14.

At least seven people were killed in the violence in Beirut amid a protest organized by Hezbollah and its allies against the lead judge probing last year’s blast at the city’s port.

The protestors, gathered by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, demanded the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar from the investigation.

According to the embassy’s statement, Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian “expressed his appreciation for the Kingdom, led by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for never abandoning Lebanon and its people, despite the unfair stances against the Kingdom by some Lebanese parties that only represent themselves.”

Sheikh Derian added that “the Saudi-Lebanese relations have always been and will remain solid regardless of any offensive speeches because our relations are above these speeches and Saudi Arabia will always see Lebanon as an Arab brotherly country.”

The statement comes after the Intelligence Directorate summoned the head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, to the Defense Ministry on Wednesday as part of the investigation into the bloodshed in Tayouneh.

The summoning was the motivation for Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi’s spontaneous visits on Tuesday to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and President Michel Aoun.

Al-Rahi denounced “the summoning of Geagea only by the Intelligence Directorate to testify.”

Charles Jabbour from the Lebanese Forces party told Arab News that “Geagea will not appear at the Defense Ministry on Wednesday.

“They should start with summoning Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah. All parties should give testimonies, beginning with the party that called for the demonstration. Only when a judge dares to summon Nasrallah, will we be able to talk about a state and a judiciary in Lebanon.”

The move to summon Geagea was condemned by several political figures.

Former Premier Saad Hariri refused “to engage in an absurd conflict and the frontlines of a civil war and sectarian divisions.”

He added: “Announcing that Dr. Geagea was informed to appear before the Intelligence Directorate via a plastered notification is absurd and leads the country into further division along with using state machinery for revenge politics.”

Former Premier Fouad Siniora also denounced “the bias of the judicial authorities in the military court over the deplorable Tayouneh events and the continuing violations of the constitutions by those who were entrusted with the task of preserving and protecting it.”

Siniora rejected “the practices seeking to use the judiciary for reprisals against political opponents, and not for its main mission: To seek the truth and achieve justice.”

Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat criticized the “selectivity instead of a transparent and just investigation for a comprehensive justice.”

He said: “All those who fired shots in the Tayouneh events should be arrested, without discrimination, and this destructive and futile political dispute must be ended.”

Samy Gemayel, head of the Lebanese Kataeb Party, announced his rejection to “all the means Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have resorted to in hampering the investigation into the Beirut port blast.”

Hezbollah accused Geagea of firing the first shot on Oct. 14 at the demonstrators who penetrated the anti-Hezbollah and Christian-majority Ain Remaneh area.

Former Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who is also a defendant in the Beirut port explosion investigation, visited Sheikh Derian on Tuesday, reiterating his demand “to either lift immunity from everyone without exception, or adopt the legal and constitutional mechanisms in force in the Supreme Council for the Trial of Presidents and Ministers.”

So far, all the politicians who have been accused of being involved in the Beirut port blast have declined to appear before Judge Bitar.

Amal Movement and Hezbollah ministers have refused to attend Cabinet sessions unless Judge Bitar is removed and the investigations into Tayouneh are halted, causing a governmental paralysis at a time when Lebanon is in desperate need of reforms to unblock the international aid that would lessen its dire economic situation.

Prime Minister Mikati hoped on Tuesday that “Cabinet meetings will resume as soon as possible to make the decisions required to activate the work of commissions and committees and do what is needed from the government.”

Mikati added that he hoped his government would supervise “the parliamentary elections with full integrity, to enable these elections to renew the political life in Lebanon.”

The joint parliamentary committees held a session on Tuesday and voted to keep the electoral law as it was, thus rejecting Aoun’s proposal to make amendments.

Aoun had objected to holding the elections on March 27 and to the proposals to change the expatriate voting formula by canceling the six seats allocated for Lebanese voters who live abroad.


Continued Israeli targeting of Al-Aqsa and holy sites sparks condemnation

Smoke billows from a building struck during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (AFP)
Smoke billows from a building struck during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 12 min 47 sec ago

Continued Israeli targeting of Al-Aqsa and holy sites sparks condemnation

Smoke billows from a building struck during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (AFP)
  • Settlers prostrate themselves in mosque's courtyards

RAMALLAH: Tensions rose in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Sunday after more than 2,000 settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque amid tight Israeli police protection throughout the Old City and at the gates leading to the mosque.

Hundreds of settlers will participate in the incursion to revive the so-called “destruction of the temple.”

They had gathered since Saturday evening in the Old City and its surroundings before reaching the Western Wall/Al-Buraq, ahead of their overnight preparation for the incursions, with the participation of far-right Knesset member Itamar Ben Gvir.

At dawn on Sunday, Israeli police stopped people under 50 from entering Al-Aqsa to prevent them from confronting the settlers. An arrest campaign was launched on Saturday night, with at least six young men targeted.

The settlers began storming the courtyards of Al-Aqsa in successive groups, with the first group of 50 provided by extremist Yehuda Glick.

Israeli police deployed members of its special units in the courtyards to provide guards for the intruders, keep Palestinians away from the path of the incursions, and prevent their movement during the tours.

Settlers raised the Israeli flag while storming the courtyards.

They organized dancing and singing sessions near the Al-Silsila Gate from the outside. There were also tours and prayers at all the gates of Al-Aqsa from the outside.

Several settlers prostrated themselves in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa, as Muslim worshippers confronted the intruders and their provocations.

A statement from the Islamic Awqaf, which is affiliated with Jordan and in charge of Al-Aqsa, was signed by other Islamic commissions in Jerusalem and obtained by Arab News.

It said: “In an attempt to change the religious, legal, and historical status of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the occupation authorities and their police and intelligence forces turned this morning, Sunday, the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque into a military barracks to secure the storming of groups of Jewish extremists to the premises of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, after their calls to mobilize large numbers to storm the mosque in remembrance of the so-called ‘Destruction of the Temple.’”

According to the Islamic Awqaf, about 2,176 Jewish extremists stormed the courtyards under the protection of the Israeli police and intelligence forces who secured their tours, dances, singing, and laying down as part of their rituals in an apparent provocation to the feelings of Muslims, in return for emptying the mosque of worshippers, pursuing several young men and women, forcibly expelling them outside the mosque, arresting a number of them, and preventing the entry of a large number of worshippers.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it held the Israeli government fully and directly responsible for its ongoing aggression against Christian and Islamic holy sites, the foremost of which was Al-Aqsa, and for its repercussions and dangers on the conflict and the entire region.

 


Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 

Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 
Updated 8 sec ago

Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 

Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 
  • Last week, rainstorms, floods and landslides killed at least 16 people and displaced many others across the country

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s government on Sunday appealed for emergency humanitarian assistance for thousands of internally displaced people who were affected by torrential rains and flash floods that hit the central city of Marib.

Flash floods triggered by heavy rains coupled with strong winds battered dozens of camps, mud houses and huts that host thousands of people in different areas, killing one person and displacing thousands.

The Yemeni government’s Executive Unit for IDP Camps said in a statement seen by Arab News that the rains, floods and winds have completely destroyed the shelters and houses of 5,287 families and partially ruined the property of 11,448 others, urging local and international relief organizations and donors to urgently send aid in the form of shelter, food and medication to the affected people.

“We call on all humanitarian partners to provide urgent aid to the affected families, especially shelter and food,” the government body said, calling for permanent and disaster-resilient buildings to replace tents and mud houses.

The city of Marib had become a safe haven for more than 2 million Yemenis who fled fighting and political, religious and social oppression by the Iran-backed Houthis since the beginning of the war.

Local aid workers said that the affected people were transferred to schools and other public facilities and hotels, while many others went to live with relatives in the city of Marib.

Mohammed Al-Soaidi, an aid worker with the Executive Unit for IDP Camps, told Arab News that the rains and winds “uprooted” the camps and huts of the displaced people, and one person died while trying to rescue trapped children and women.

“People are in need of shelter and food. Tents that cannot protect people from harsh weather or rains must be replaced,” Al-Soaidi said.

Last week, rainstorms, floods and landslides killed at least 16 people and displaced many others across the country, mainly in the northern province of Hajjah.

Local social media accounts said on Sunday that hundreds of people are still trapped in mountainous villages in Hajjah and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance after floods and rockslides blocked or washed away many roads. 

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization predicted in its Agrometeorological Early Warning Bulletin on Sunday that heavy rains and flooding would continue hitting many areas in Yemen and are expected to affect nearly 20,000 people in Mahwit, Taiz, Saada, Hodeidah, Raymah, Lahj, Hadramout and Shabwah.

“Forecasts for the period 01 – 20 August indicate sustained heavy rainfall threatening the already battered parts of Yemen, causing further displacement and loss of livelihoods,” the FAO said. 


Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis

Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis
Updated 07 August 2022

Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis

Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis
  • Airstrike kills second senior Islamic Jihad commander; 31 Palestinians, including 6 children and 4 women, dead

GAZA CITY: The Palestinian Ministry of Health has warned that its hospital services would stop within 48 hours if operations at the power plant in Gaza were not restored.

The power station has stopped working since noon on Saturday, as fuel supplies ceased with the closure of Kerem Shalom last week.

During its continuous raids since Friday, Israeli forces have killed at least 31 Palestinians, including six children and four women, and wounded more than 270 others.

Medhat Abbas, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said that services would be suspended if around-the-clock electricity was not restored within two days.

“The Ministry of Health needs half a million liters of fuel per month to be able to operate the private generators,” Abbas said. 

He fears a real disaster soon, as fuel is currently unavailable.

Gaza City Mayor Yahya Al-Sarraj said that municipal services were also being negatively impacted due to the lack of electricity.

“As a result of the power plant shutdown, municipal services will be minimal or even stopped. It will minimize the supply of domestic water, the consumption of which increases especially during July and August,” Al-Sarraj said.

“Raw sewage will drain into the sea because the plants are not functioning at full capacity,” he added. 

The power supply has been reduced to four hours a day, and the resulting situation will affect water distribution as well as sewage treatment plants, Abbas said.

Efforts to reach a ceasefire continued with Egyptian and UN mediation.

Local and Arab media quoted Egyptian sources as saying that they were making efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement and to restore calm to the Gaza Strip.

But Israeli warplanes continued to bomb various targets in the Gaza Strip for the third day in a row.

The Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad, fired dozens of missiles toward Israeli cities.

Missiles were also directed toward Jerusalem for the first time since the start of the latest fighting round. Israel’s assassination of Khaled Mansour, the Al-Quds Brigade commander in Rafah, was a new blow to the Islamic Jihad in Gaza in the wake of the killing of Taysir Al-Jabari, another Islamic Jihad commander.

The Military Council of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza consists of 10 members under the leadership of Akram Al-Ajouri, whom Israel tried to assassinate in Beirut previously.

Abu Hamza, a spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades, said in a press statement: “What has emerged from our missile capabilities, which today are draining our foolish enemy, is a small part of what we have prepared.”

He asked the Palestinian people in the West Bank to get involved in the resistance. 

“We call on all the resistance fighters and free people in the West Bank and occupied lands to engage in this epic, and let it be a massive intifada that establishes the demise of our enemy.”

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau, said in a statement: “Around the clock, we are making all required efforts to protect our people and stop the aggression.”


UN Security Council will meet to discuss Israeli attack on Gaza: Palestine’s UN Ambassador

UN Security Council will meet to discuss Israeli attack on Gaza: Palestine’s UN Ambassador
Updated 07 August 2022

UN Security Council will meet to discuss Israeli attack on Gaza: Palestine’s UN Ambassador

UN Security Council will meet to discuss Israeli attack on Gaza: Palestine’s UN Ambassador
  • Mansour emphasized Security Council’s responsibility to condemn and halt Israeli aggression and provide international protection for the Palestinian people.

NEW YORK: Palestine’s UN ambassador has said that the UN Security Council will hold a meeting on Monday to discuss the Israeli brutal aggression on the Gaza Strip, the Palestine News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported.

Ambassador Riyad Mansour emphasized that the Security Council is responsible for maintaining international peace and security, as well as responding to the imperatives of condemning and halting Israeli aggression and providing international protection for the Palestinian people.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Lynn Hastings issued a statement on Saturday expressing her deep concern about the situation, which has killed at least 31 Palestinians and injured more than 253.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is already dire and can only worsen with this most recent escalation” she said.

“The continued operation of basic service facilities such as hospitals, schools, warehouses, and designated shelters for internally displaced persons is essential and now at risk,” she cautioned.

An electricity company spokesman said that Gaza’s sole power plant shut down on Saturday after running out of fuel five days after Israel closed its goods crossing with the Palestinian enclave, AFP reported.

Hastings added that the movement and access of humanitarian personnel, critical medical cases and essential goods, such as food and fuel, into Gaza must not be hampered in order to meet humanitarian needs.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also scheduled to deliver an important speech before the UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 23, WAFA reported.

Related


El-Sisi: Egypt has an unchangeable policy on Taiwan

El-Sisi: Egypt has an unchangeable policy on Taiwan
Updated 07 August 2022

El-Sisi: Egypt has an unchangeable policy on Taiwan

El-Sisi: Egypt has an unchangeable policy on Taiwan
  • El-Sisi said that Egypt supported the “One China” policy as it is in the interests of world security and stability

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has said that his country’s policy remains consistent on Taiwan, with Egypt supporting the “One China” policy.

During a speech to military students, El-Sisi said that Egypt supported the “One China” policy as it is in the interests of world security and stability.

“We do not want more global crises that may affect us all,” he said. “In our foreign policy, we have constants in our policy that do not change, and we are always keen to be supportive of regional and international stability.”

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has angered China, which views the island as part of its territory.

A day after Pelosi’s visit to the self-governing island, China on Thursday began unprecedented military exercises and fired multiple missiles near Taiwan.

In response to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China said on Friday that it was suspending talks with the US in a number of areas, including on climate change. China’s foreign ministry announced that it was also halting communications with the US on combating transnational crime and drug trafficking, actions that the US referred to as irresponsible.

On Thursday, the US criticized China’s display of force as an “overreaction” and “provocative” after Beijing launched missiles and stationed fighter jets near Taiwan in retaliation for Pelosi’s visit to the island.

The Taiwanese defense ministry reported on Friday that it sent out planes to warn off Chinese aircraft that it claimed violated the median line in the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial boundary between the two sides, and entered the island’s air defense zone.